Leo Santa Cruz successfully defended his IBF bantamweight title, stopping Victor Zaleta in the ninth round of a gritty, hard-fought bout at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, live on Showtime.
Santa Cruz (22-0-1, 13 KO) cut an incredible pace from the get-go, as is his standard, but Zaleta (20-3-1, 10 KO) surprised many by at least coming close to keeping pace with the 24-year-old champion. In almost every way, Zaleta's challenge exceeded expectations, and while he wasn't winning rounds and never had Santa Cruz in trouble, he was generally right there with Santa Cruz, trading blows and mixing it up.
But it was the constant pressure and nasty body attack of Santa Cruz, as usual, that won the fight. Zaleta first went down in the fourth round on a left hook body shot, but survived the round. He was down again in round seven, lasting longer than most would have thought after that fourth round, and once again he made it up and out of the round.
Floored again in the ninth, though, referee Ray Corona called the fight, ending the stand of the brave challenger.
After the fight, Santa Cruz reiterated that he wants the winner of the Mares-Moreno fight, but added that he'd like one or two more fights for experience before taking that one.
Our live coverage continues here, with the Mares vs Moreno main event up next.